Food

Victory Garden

A time for tomatoes

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

My name is Amy, and I’m addicted to tomatoes.

My passion is not for the often-tasteless orbs found in supermarket produce sections, but rather is directed toward fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes that still contain warmth from the sun when you bite into them.

Little pleases me more in life than seeing a bowl full of multicolored specimens sitting on the kitchen counter and knowing I can eat every last one of them because there are plenty more to be plucked from the garden.

Of course, to obtain the level of tomato saturation I seek from mid-July to late September means I need to get a whole lot of starts in the ground on or around Mother’s Day weekend, then tend them faithfully until they start to produce the delicious fruit that nutritionists insist on calling a vegetable.

I’ve written before about my reliance on the Whatcom County Master Gardeners’ annual plant sale at Ferndale’s Hovander Homestead Park as being the place to get my tomato start fix, but I’ve never referenced the event during a global pandemic.

If social distancing rules were put in place, I hoped the function might be allowed to continue as planned. But anyone who’s ever been present at the beginning of the popular plant party knows that, try as they might to control themselves and keep their distance from other people, they’d still be rushing the tomato table—or the dahlia tubers section, native plants, veggie starts, perennials, annuals and beyond—to get their allotment.

Wisely, the 29th annual sale instead features a modified version of the fundraiser with proceeds funding WSU Whatcom Master Gardener projects and activities such as demonstration gardens, a diagnostic plant clinic, outreach tables and classes around the county, a children’s garden, free lectures and community events at Hovander Park.

The short press release I received recently noted that, from April 23-30, people would instead be able to preorder tomato and vegetable starts, herbs and dahlia tubers online at http://www.extension.wsu.edu/Whatcom, then pick them up at a drive-thru at the park at designated times Fri., May 8 and Sat., May 9 (the date the regular sale would’ve taken place).

The missive didn’t specify what time the Victory Garden Tomato Sale would begin on Wed., April 23, so I logged on to their website shortly after dawn to make sure I was at the front of the “line.” I was eventually able to suss out that sales wouldn’t begin until noon, and planned my day accordingly.

Perhaps it was divine providence that caused me to check the Master Gardeners’ Facebook page an hour early—where I discovered that sales had commenced and items were already selling out. I’d done research about what varieties of tomatoes I wanted, but in the heat of the moment clicked on whatever sounded interesting.

While I missed out on a cherry tomato dubbed Dancing With Smurfs, I did nab about 20 of the varieties the Master Gardeners grow with our particular climate in mind. Starts that will go in my own victory garden included Cherokee Purple, Chocolate Cherry, Super Sweet 100, Tonnelet, Glacier, Ceylon, Taxi, Saucy Lady, Pineapple, Fireworks, Gold Nugget, Starfire, Cuore di Bue, and the oddly named Banana Toes.

I also chose an egg-sized heirloom tomato named German Lunchbox simply because of its backstory—it was turned into the seed store by a local gentleman whose family brought the variety to the United States when they immigrated here—as well as three zucchini starts, Kentucky Blue pole beans, and a Verkist Cherry dahlia tuber.
At press time, the dahlia tubers were sold out and only one variety of pole beans remained in the veggie starts section, but there were still a number of tomato varieties for the taking (for $2 each, the price is hard to beat).

At the Skagit Food Co-op and both Community Food Co-ops in Bellingham, organic tomato starts and a whole lot of other veggie starts by Sunseed Farm can also be found.

I’ve grown many of the Acme-based farm’s starts with success over the years, and can confirm their quality. If I find myself needing more tomatoes—yes, it’s a possibility—I know just where to go.

UPCOMING EVENTS

[Wed., April 29]

COOLER DRIVE: If you have an extra cooler lying around, donate it to a Food Recovery Program Cooler Drive from 10am-12pm at Sustainable Connections, 1701 Ellis St., Ste. 221. The event is focused on recovering surplus fare from restaurants and delivering it to community members experiencing food insecurity. Monetary donations will also be accepted.
For more info: http://www.squatchfoodwaste.org

[May 1-2]

PLANT SALE: Get a start on your gardening by attending a Plant Sale from 8:30pam-3pm Friday, and 9am-1pm Saturday in Lynden at Cornerstone Christian School, 8872 Northwood rd. Perennials, annuals and vegetable starts will be sold.
For more info: http://www.lynden.org/events

[Sat., May 2]

BELLINGHAM FARMERS MARKET: Attend the Bellingham Farmers Market from 10am-2pm Saturdays at the Depot Market Square, 1100 Railroad Ave. At the modified market, social distancing is strongly enforced, patrons are not allowed to touch the food, and only 20 vendors will be allowed on site to sell farm produce and grocery staples such as bread, meat and cheese. Entertainment, music and eating areas have been suspended until further notice, and masks are encouraged. Please stay home if you are sick, and be prepared with small bills to offer exact change to vendors when possible.
For more info: http://www.bellinghamfarmers.org

[May 6-9]

PLANT SALE: Order plants for the Mt. Baker Plant Sale starting Wed., May 6. Plants will be available for pickup Thurs.-Sat., May 7-9 at the greenhouse at Mount Baker Senior High, 4936 Deming Rd. A list of plants and their prices will be made available on the Mt. Baker Plant Sale’s Facebook page. They look forward to providing community members with quality plant material, raised by MBHS students at a competitive price.
For more info: http://www.mtbaker.wednet.edu

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